Mick Hucknall: "I was a complete nutter - girls liked that"
I had a torrid time at grammar school. I was bullied quite badly and didn’t feel I fitted in. It had a lot to do with having red hair. Also, being an only child without a mother in the house [Hucknall’s mother left when he was three], I didn’t really have anyone to rely on. Those years when boys’ balls drop and you’re thrown into this chaos – ‘My God, what’s happening to me?’ – that was all going off and I had no one to talk to about it at home. I saw families with mothers on TV, I suppose, and it seemed ideal but not something that was attainable. So I was a bit lost, really. It wasn’t until I got married and had a child I felt I finally had my first family.
My dad and I had a very good relationship until I was about 11. Suddenly, you had these two testosterone-filled creatures butting heads, and no referee. It was not good. I started getting into trouble. I was going out playing pool and drinking, and stealing copper wiring out of demolished houses and selling it to scrap metal dealers. I suppose my dad thought he did the best he could, seeing me go to grammar school, but looking back I wish he’d been a bit more thoughtful. I was a bit of a knobhead, too. I’ll apologise to him for that. But he could have made more compromises.
I was initially very nervous around girls but I saw the Sex Pistols when I was 16 and that gave me a confidence. That, and going to art school, changed everything. I cut off my hair and shaved it round the sides, started to wear electric blue plastic macs and army and navy store winklepickers… and, strangely, I became attractive. Girls liked the fact that I was a complete nutter. There was nobody dressing like that in my area. I guess that was my entertainer streak coming through. The weirdest fucking thing is, it never occurred to me that Johnny Rotten had bright red hair. I should have been like, ‘Redheads unite!’ Christ, you dumbass!
I’d like to go back and tell my younger self, who felt like he couldn’t fit in, that in a few years he’ll like being different. I’d also tell him he’s actually a Celt. I only found out who I was halfway through my life. My father, not being the most expressive person, just casually told me at my 40th birthday: “Oh yeah, of course, your grandma was a Scot.” I said: “Dad, why did you never tell me?” He said: “Oh, that’s all bloody rubbish, all that stuff about where you come from.” Turns out, my father’s grandparents were Scottish too, and my mother’s father was Irish. It’s had a big impact on how I see myself.
I think the 16-year-old Mick would be a bit scared if I told him what was going to happen to him. But I think he’d also say, 'Wow!' You’re going to go round the world with a band six times? You’ll have a number one in America? And an album, Stars, which is still the only album ever to be the biggest seller two years in succession. He’d be impressed with how consistent my career has been, from about 1985 right through, always held concert sales and had steadily-selling albums in the relevant markets of the time.
I would tell my younger self to stay positive. Don’t respond to negative criticism in the press. I took things way too personally at one time, maybe because I had no motherly support. I was just this red-raw cock. I was far too sensitive in what is a horrible business, in terms of the press. I was attacked all the time but I had to learn to take it and get on with my day.
In 1976, the year Mick Hucknall turns 16... Apple Computer Inc. formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak... Seychelles gains independence from the UK... Jimmy Carter beats Gerald Ford to become US president... Anita Roddick opens the first branch of The Body Shop in Brighton...
Mick Hucknall’s new album, American Soul (Rhino), is out on October 29